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10 November 2020
Crown Office refuses to hand over Salmond documents to committee

Credit: Ailean Beaton/Holyrood

Crown Office refuses to hand over Salmond documents to committee

The Crown Office has refused to hand over documents relating to Alex Salmond’s criminal trial to the committee investigating the Scottish Government’s handling of harassment complaints.

Procurator Fiscal Kenny Donnelly said that he is unable to provide the evidence that the committee had asked for unless there was a legal basis for the request.

He also said that Salmond would be breaking the law if he shared documents from the criminal trial with the committee directly.

Donnelly wrote to committee convener Linda Fabiani responding to a letter she had written last week to Lord Advocate James Wolffe asking to release any documents “relevant” to the committee’s investigation from Salmond’s criminal trial.

The committee is investigating what went wrong with a Scottish Government probe into complaints of sexual misconduct made against Salmond, which ended with a judicial review finding the process “unlawful” and the Scottish Government having to pay over £500,000 to Salmond in legal costs.

Donnelly said that Wolffe had no direct involvement in the criminal trial, in which Salmond was acquitted of all charges, and that therefore he would respond to the committee’s request on Wolffe’s behalf.

He said that the committee had provided “no legal basis” that would allow the Crown Office to disclose any material which it holds from the trial with the committee.

The committee would have to detail which documents it wants and explain its relevance to the work of the committee for the Lord Advocate to consider, he said.

Donnelly said that data protection rules prevent the Crown Office from releasing documents in the way that the committee asked for.

He said that if the Crown Office were to release information it holds, such as witness statements, for purposes other than originally intended that there could be “a significant risk that this would undermine public confidence in both the police and in [the Crown Office]”.

Instead, Donnelly suggested that a section of the Scotland Act could provide a legal basis for the committee to request the documents it wants.

Donnelly also warned that it would be an offence for Salmond to hand over documents which he holds from the criminal trial to the committee directly.

Referring to statements made by lawyers working for Salmond offering to hand over documents directly to the committee with the Lord Advocate’s consent, Donnelly said that Salmond was legally bound only to use the documents in relation to the criminal trial.

He said: “There is no legal basis in the 2010 Act or otherwise in law which would allow the Lord Advocate or [the Crown Office] to consent to Mr Salmond departing from his obligations under section 162 of the [Criminal Justice and Licensing (Scotland) Act 2010].”

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